Māori and the church.

This is the last blog post about ‘general Māori’ kaupapa I’ve wanted to share but haven’t been able to because of the #atuablogseries. Well, I miss writing about atua and how amazing they are ha so thought it was fitting to wrap up this little flow of kōrero with one of the hardest topics I’ve wanted to write about and share for the longest time.

Māori and the church.

First thing to note here is that this isn’t about religion. Religion is awesome. Spirituality and believing in a higher power, in a something greater than ourselves is beautiful and powerful. However, the human element of the church and how it embodies and expresses its spirituality/religion, is what I'll be talking about today.

To give some background. Mum’s side of the family, grandparents were Christian and went to church often. Pāp’s side, Nan and Koro were Mihingare and Ringatū and also attended church often. Then came my atheist parents hahaha nah just kidding, good people who didn’t go to church. I was raised in te ao Māori me ōna tikanga, with a Māori worldview shaped by our own creation stories, spirituality, customs and protocols and have learned that

the church was/is a tool of colonisation.

I say ‘is’ because colonisation isn’t a historical act. The systems in place today continue to enforce it and perpetuate it. Cool, next, let’s take a look at any indigenous people around the world and it’s the same story: they were given the bible (had it forced on them in some cases) in exchange for land, resources and power. Cool, cool, cool, cool, cool, cool, coooooolest trade.

Here in NZ, upon arrival, Pākeha brought with them diseases and illnesses that our tupuna (ancestors) had never been exposed to before, so their healing methods and practices were futile compared to the Pākeha ones. Consequently, our tupuna began to believe their atua had abandoned them, or were inferior compared to Pākeha God* and so began to renounce their connections, practices and faith in te ao Māori, tikanga and kawa. *Queue, assimilation.* Add the Native Schools Act (1867) and the Tohunga Suppression Act (1907) to the mix, which are only some of the many laws here in Aotearoa that can be traced back to origins in the church.

Laws that actively oppressed Māori for being Māori.

For speaking their language, for practicing their customs and protocols, for conducting their rites and the list goes on… Basically, the affect the church has had on the loss of mātauranga (knowledge systems), language, culture and identity for Māori is huge. Translate the Lord’s prayer into Māori, does that make it a Māori karakia? Translate the bible into Māori, does that make it Māori? Or do those become more tools to perpetuate colonisation? Let’s let that simmer.

Revisiting the point I made earlier about the difference between church and religion. Religion is fine, there are more similarities than differences between the various religions and faiths of the world. It’s only when religion is forced upon others, through the church, to incite hate, war and to assimilate a people out of their own way of life and thereby enact cultural genocide upon them, is where I have a problem. In my opinion, that’s what the church almost succeeded with here in Aotearoa, so I’m not a fan of it.

If that’s you, awesome - kei a koe, do you. It’s not your fault lol that’s not what I mean um… let’s try this again, bare with me.. if you were raised in the church, it’s way overdue time to be responsible and aware of the history the church has in oppressing and colonising native and indigenous people.

Tēnā tātou,


*Pākeha God a.k.a Christian, Catholic, Anglian, LDS etc. ironic since Jesus is from Nazareth, Israel and so Middle Eastern, even though he’s depicted as a fair-skinned man #whitewashing101.